Due to its strength, durability and resistance to fire and water, asbestos was used in a wide range of building products and materials up until the mid-1980s.
If your workplace was built prior to 1984, there is a high chance that asbestos was used during construction. For buildings erected after this date, the chances of finding large traces of the mineral are significantly lower but still very possible.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous silicate mineral. It was considered a versatile product because it is able to withstand heat, erosion, and decay and has fire and water resistant properties.
Most states and territories introduced a ban on the mining of raw asbestos and the manufacture, importation, and installation of products containing crocidolite and amosite asbestos from 31 December 1984.
By the late 1980s, the use of asbestos in building products was banned in most Australian states and territories and on 31 December 2003, the use of all forms of asbestos was banned in Australia.
This means that the import, manufacture, supply, sale, use or reuse of asbestos and asbestos-containing products is no longer permitted.
Despite the bans on mining and industrial use, many asbestos products that were used in the past are still present in our built environment today, including in many government, educational, commercial and residential buildings. The presence of in-situ asbestos means it needs to be managed carefully and professionally as the risks of exposure may not be obvious for many years and their deadly effects could continue for many more years to come.
Asbestos remains one of the hidden killers in commercial fit outs as it is sometimes handled very poorly through ignorance, inexperience, DIY construction/refurbishment and improper disposal.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen. Inhalation of fibres is associated with increased incidences of a number of respiratory diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural and lung cancers.
Asbestos in all of its forms may pose a significant health risk to the community if the materials are not properly maintained or safely removed. Potential health risks are posed by any contact with airborne asbestos fibres. Release of the airbourne asbestos fibres can be caused by:
- weathering of Asbestos causing materials (ACMs)
- damage to ACMs
- building and/or maintenance work involving ACMs
- demolition and/or removal of ACMs
- unsafe disposal of ACMs
- Disruption to asbestos-contaminated land.
In homes, offices, or commercial work sites built prior to 1984 up to 2003, you are likely to find asbestos in a range of materials and products, such as:
- Roof Ventilation
- Some brands of roof sheeting & ceiling tiles
- Skylight and manhole frames
- Window moulding and louvre blades
- Some brands of sheeting and ceiling tiles
- Compressed sheet flooring
- Hardiflex wall sheeting
- Some awnings
- Vinyl floor tiles & vinyl floor coverings
- Wet area (toilets and kitchen) wall partitions
- Telecommunications or Electrical pits
- Textiles in the fuse box
- Switchboard materials
- Cement downpipes
- Door mouldings
- Cement and plaster
- Industrial furnaces and heating systems
- Building insulation
- House siding
- Some forms of paint
- Water, drainage and flue pipes
- Electrical conduits
- Air Conditioning Duct insulation
- Fire Doors
It is often very difficult to identify the presence of asbestos by sight. The only way to be certain is to have a sample of the material analysed by a laboratory.
Sampling of anything you suspect may contain asbestos is itself hazardous and should only be done by a competent and qualified person, and analysed only in accredited laboratories.
It is important to be informed, and to be careful.
Know what the dangers could be before you commence your Office Fitout and ensure that you and your Office Fitout company act accordingly. If your fit out company does not deal with your Asbestos problem correctly they are not only endangering their own lives, they could put the lives of yourself, your staff, your family and everyone who comes into contact with you or your office at risk.
Apex Executive Interiors can organise a Hazardous Materials Survey of your property as this is something that you will need to do before your begin your office fit out. Apex Executive Interiors will also organise the professional removal and disposal of affected material before and during your office fitout.
For more information in relation to Asbestos and its treatment, contact The National Asbestos Safety & Eradication Agency: https://www.asbestossafety.gov.au/